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Best PVR and set-top box brands: which should you buy?

Top PVR and set-top box brands for 2017

By Lewis Skinner

Article 2 of 9

Which brand of PVR or set-top box should you choose? We break down the big brands to help you choose the best device for you.

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We survey thousands of Which? members every year, asking about the products they own. This means that we can reveal the brands that produce solid, reliable products, as well as the ones that will let you down.

PVRs are generally unreliable products, and are especially prone to software problems. Buying one from a brand towards the bottom of our table can mean you end up missing out on the programmes you want to watch, and if your PVR breaks down it can completely clear out your library of TV shows and films.

You may trust and recognise big names such as Panasonic, Bush, Humax and Sky, but a look at how our members rated their experiences with their products may cause you to think twice. If you'd like to find out which models scored best in our testing before judging them on their reliability, then take a look at all of our PVR and set-top box Best Buys.

Just over half of all owners told us they had experienced their PVR box freezing or locking up. Other problems include issues with the screen freezing and recording and playback not working properly.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, sign up for a £1 trial to get instant access.

The table below features an overall reliability rating, a customer score (which is how our members would rate their experience with the brand) and an average review score for each brand.

Brand Average review score Reliability rating Customer score Verdict
74% 73%

This brand offers a good range of PVRs, with a variety of hard drive sizes. All PVRs use the Freeview service to deliver free TV channels, in both standard and high definition. If you have a large Blu-Ray collection you may want to consider one of the models that combines Blu-Ray playback with PVR functionality.

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65% 64%

This is a big, popular brand name, but not necessarily one you'd associate with PVRs and set-top boxes. There aren't too many available brand new anymore, but those that are score well with our readers and are super reliable.

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74% 63%

Something of a fallen giant, PVRs and set-top boxes is one of the few areas in which this manufacturer is still actually active - and the scores across the board show why.

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68% 57%

This brand's PVRs are tied directly to its own subscription service. The top-of-the range model is one of the main attractions to this brand, as it can suggest shows you may want to watch, based on previous viewing habits.

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74% 58%

A subscription-based service offering a mixture of live, catch-up and premium channels. Unlike its competitors, this brand uses a combination of Freeview broadcasts and broadband-based services to deliver its full range of TV offerings.

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71% 50%

The introductory prices for TV, broadband and phone bundles from this brand are some of the most tempting. Depending on which you opt for, you'll be sent a set-top box or a PVR. Both use the YouView TV service, so you get access to Freeview channels, but only the PVR can record shows to a hard drive.

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73% 69%

These PVRs are for use with Freeview and Freesat services. But, just because this brand isn't as familiar as others available, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. The company’s products are highly regarded and it's one of the manufacturers selected by the YouView service to supply its boxes.

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78% 61%

A well-known brand that was one of the first companies in the country to offer PVRs. It's small range of models includes two PVRs which can be used to access free TV via the Freesat service and pay-TV with a monthly subscription.

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Table notes
Results based on June/July 2017 reliability survey of 2,531 PVR and set-top box owners. Data correct as of August 2017. Average test score taken for all models available for purchase as of August 2017.


Member Content

Choosing the best PVR brand

Which? has a wealth of information on Britain's favourite tech brands. Every year we ask Which? members to tell us about the technology products they own - from how happy they are to recommend a brand, to how reliable the products are. This year nearly 11,000 Which? members told us about more than 30,000 devices.

We calculate a brand's reliability and its customer score based on the results of an annual survey. This year we had enough respondents to report on popular high street PVR brands, such as Panasonic and Humax, as well as set-top box TV subscription services, including Sky and Virgin Media.

The most reliable brand has a score of 87%, compared to 65% for the least reliable brand. In fact, that most reliable brand had a lower fault rate after five years than the least reliable did after just one. If you take a gamble going with a box from the least reliable brand there's a 42% chance it won't be working properly within four years - that number drops all the way to 16% with our most reliable brand.

Our reliability surveys help Which? to uncover common set-top box problems that can affect owners over time. Combined with our extensive lab tests, this means we can recommend the best PVR for you to buy.

Found a brand you like? See how it scores in our PVR and set-top box reviews and test results.

How we calculate the best and worst brands

Our reliability survey is conducted annually to ensure our results reflect the genuine state of the market. Thousands of our members are asked dozens of questions about the products they own to determine just what went wrong with them, and when - if anything. They also give their own opinions on the brands that make these devices, telling us just how likely they'd be to recommend one to a friend. Our statistics team then breaks down these figures and responses to calculate a percentage score and star rating, allowing us to easily rank the brands.